*Norcross 14, Colquitt County 9: Norcross QB A.J. Bush rushed for 113 yards on 14 carries and threw a 19-yard TD pass to Myles Autry with 6:12 left for the winning score. Norcross outgained Colquitt County 240-181 in a defensive-minded game. Norcross’ 1,000-yard rusher, Josh Boyd, was held to 55 yards on 15 carries, while Colquitt’s 1,000-yard rusher, Sihiem King, was held to 40 on 25.
What it means – Norcross reached the state final with a chance to become the first team in the highest classification to repeat as champion since Camden County in 2008-09.
*North Gwinnett 27, McEachern 21: C.J. Leggett rushed for 279 yards on 33 carries, and his 53-yard run after an interception gave North Gwinnett the lead for good 21-14 with 3:17 left in the third quarter. North was held to 80 yards passing on 21 attempts on a rainy night.
What it means – North Gwinnett is in the state finals for the second time and first since 2007. The victory sets up a rematch with Norcross from the regular season (North Gwinnett won 36-17) and assures that a Gwinnett County team will win the AAAAAA title for the fourth consecutive season.
*Creekside 55, Kell 10: Dexter Knox rushed for 247 yards and three touchdowns and Bricen Terry had 134 yards and three TDs for Creekside, which scored 34 unanswered points after Kell took a 3-0 lead on its opening possession. Elliott Berry ran for an 80-yard touchdown on his only carry. Creekside finished with 501 yards of total offense.
What it means – Creekside, which opened in 1990 as a merger of Palmetto and Campbell of Fairburn, is in the championship game for the first time. The Seminoles are trying to become the first team from south Fulton to win a title since Palmetto in 1983.
*Tucker 20, Gainesville: Top-ranked Tucker got the go-ahead touchdown on a 6-yard run by Dominick Sanders with 2:22 remaining and then sealed the comeback victory with its fourth interception of QB Deshaun Watson on Gainesville’s final possession. Gainesville led 14-0 in the second quarter, but Tucker got a 9-yard TD pass from Joseph Farrar to Detrick Dukes and a 33-yard from Farrar to Sanders to tie it. Watson was 20-for-34 for 185 yards.
What it means – Tucker is in the championship game for the third time in six seasons (winning in 2008 and 2011). Defending champion Gainesville was trying to become the first team to win back-to-back titles in the second-highest classification since Northside of Warner Robins in 2006-07.
*Carrollton 46, Marist 44: Carrollton stopped Marist’s two-point conversion attempt, a keeper by QB Chase Martenson, in the fourth overtime. RB Jarvis Terrell rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Brandon Walton had 2.5 tackles for losses. Tyler Newsome kicked a 27-yard field goal and put two punts inside the 20-yard line. Carrollton led in total yardage 372-354.
What it means – The victory avenges Carrollton’s five-overtime loss to Marist (43-37) in the 2012 second round and puts the Trojans in the state final for the first time since 2010. Marist lost for only the third time in 53 home playoff games since 1987.
*Griffin 25, Wayne County 20: Jaquez Parks threw a 20-yard TD pass to Trey Willis for a 25-14 lead in the fourth quarter, and Griffin ran out the final 5:09 on the clock after Wayne pulled within 25-20. Wayne led 14-6 at halftime. Griffin DB Anforne Stroud ran back an interception, his second of the game, 59 yards for a touchdown to start the comeback with 9:13 left in the third quarter.
What it means – Griffin advanced to its first state final since 1980.
*Buford 24, Callaway 14: Joshua Thomas rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns for Buford, which had to rally from its first halftime deficit of the season. Callaway’s Tez Parks and Eddie Culpepper had touchdown runs for a 14-7 lead after two quarters, but the Wolves dominated in the second half, holding Callaway to 32 yards and one first down.
What it means – Buford is in the championship game for the seventh consecutive season, a state record. The Wolves are seeking their ninth championship in 13 years and their 10th overall. Buford has won 21 straight home playoff games.
*Washington County 37, Ringgold 0: Washington County’s Melvin Hill had touchdown runs of 59 and 2 yards and returned a punt 99 yards for another score in a game in which all the scoring came in the first half. Hill finished with 118 yards on 17 carries. A.J. Gray threw a 70-yard TD pass to D.J. Sanders. Ringgold QB Slade Dale, who entered the game with 1,809 yards passing and 1,397 rushing, was limited by a leg injury and held to 34 yards rushing and 21 passing.
What it means – Washington County is in the state championship game for the first time since 2004, when it lost to LaGrange 17-6 in the Class AAA final. The Golden Hawks won championships in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
*Lamar County 10, Benedictine 7: Tyler Scandrett kicked a 24-yard field goal on the final play. Lamar County drove from its 6-yard line after a Benedictine punt to the Benedictine 7 in the final 7:23. Benedictine slowed Lamar’s leading rusher, Lawrence Austin, holding him to 24 yards, but Austin’s brother, QB Lance Austin, rushed for 139 yards on 22 carries. Both have committed to Georgia Tech. Lamar held Benedictine to 148 yards in total offense.
What it means – Lamar County advanced to the state final for the first time since starting varsity football in 1970 and prevented a rare all-public-school final in AA. Benedictine was denied its first state final appearance.
*Lovett 35, Brooks County 12: Grant Haley rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns and intercepted a pass, and Lovett scored on its first three possessions for a 21-0 lead and coasted. Lovett’s defense had two interceptions, four sacks and 10 tackles for losses, three by Deen Brooks.
What it means – Lovett won only its second semifinal game in 10 tries since its 1970 state championship and returned to the final for the first time since 2009. The state final with Lamar County will be a rematch of the 2012 quarterfinal won by Lamar 35-28 and will match teams ranked No. 1 (Lamar) and No. 2 (Lovett).
Class A (public)
*Charlton County 34, Irwin County 33: Irwin County’s Antuane Merritt scored on a 3-yard run with 4 seconds remaining, but Charlton County blocked Eric Contreras’ extra-point attempt to preserve the victory. Andrew Lee rushed for 228 yards and scored four touchdowns for Charlton County. Merritt rushed for 158 yards for Irwin County, which won the regular-season matchup between the 2-A rivals 29-26 on a 33-yard field goal by Contreras with 3.3 seconds remaining.
What it means – Charlton County is in the championship game for the first time since 2006, when it tied Dublin 13-13 to share the Class AA title. Charlton also won AA championships in 2004 and 2005 and took the Class A title in 1999.
*Marion County 40, Hawkinsville 7: Lorenzo Smothers scored on a 44-yard interception return and Corey Johnson returned a fumble 73 yards for another score as Marion County built a 16-0 lead in the first 15 minutes. Smothers rushed for 117 yards and scored three touchdowns, including an 81-yard run that made it 26-0 with 3:15 to play in the first half.
What it means – Marion County, whose program began in 2006 after the breakup of Tri-County High, avenged its only loss of the season and reached the championship game for the first time. Tri-County had just three winning seasons in 30 years.
Class A (private)
*Aquinas 17, Mount Pisgah Christian 16: Liam Welch threw a 5-yard TD pass to John Morris, his only catch of the game, with 19 seconds left to win it. Aquinas made two fourth-down conversions on the winning drive, which started at the Aquinas 35 with 5:32 left. Ruben Garnett rushed for 111 yards on 33 carries. Aquinas had only 163 yard in total offense. Aquinas DE Shalom Alvarez had four tackles for losses.
What it means – Aquinas will be playing for its first football state title. It has the state’s youngest head coach, James Leonard, the grandson of Aquinas’ first head coach in 1957.
*Calvary Day 35, Eagle’s Landing Christian 34: Calvary Day stopped ELCA’s two-point conversion attempt in the first overtime on the game’s final play. Robert Heyward rushed for 122 yards on 24 carries and scored on a 1-yard run to give Calvary the overtime lead. Michael Peterson threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns, and Jordan Walker had eight catches for 135 yards. Calvary led 21-0 in the first half before ELCA made its comeback. With the score 28-28 in the final minutes, ELCA lost a fumble at the Calvary Day 6-yard line.
What it means – Calvary Day, which joined the GHSA in 1988, will play for its first state title in football. ELCA, the defending champion, is out.
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